If you live in Florida or have been paying attention to the weather channel lately, then you know that the state of Florida has gotten a lot of rain as of late. This is actually a good thing in most cases as a large part of the state was in a severe or exceptional drought. Crops have suffered and there have been many large brush fires all over the state and even into southern Georgia. Now the drainage from the rain has presented problems, though. Aside from the usual fertilizer problems that occur from large amounts of rain water draining into rivers and lakes, there is also fecal matter in the water.

Florida beachesBeach Closures Arise

Yep, there is poop in the water and that is gross. Naturally, there is always some of that when fertilizer is involved, but it has now gone past that simple issue. Rainwater draining from properties with septic fields is draining into the rivers, lakes and finally into the ocean. Regular water samples taken from areas around Tampa and St. Petersburg, FL have shown that there is a dangerous level of fecal matter in the salt water around the area. Three beaches have been closed off to public swimmers because of it.  The areas are Northshore Beach, Maximo Beach, and Lassing Park.  Swimmers and scuba divers have been asked to stay out of the waters in and around these areas. Some are asking why this is a big deal. Coral reef enthusiasts in particular just want to study the marine life anyways, but that may not be a good idea.

The Effects Of Polluted Rain Water

The tests performed show plenty of bacteria called “Enterococci“. This is an enteric bacteria caused by fecal matter in the water. This comes from storm water runoff, pets, other animals and of course… Human sewage. High levels of this bacteria can cause disease, nasty infections, and rashes. It is bad enough to swim in water like this, much more so to accidentally ingest it or get it into an open wound. This may go without saying… but don’t go swimming if water conditions are in this sort of state.

It’s Dangerous To Marine Life As Well

This type of pollution can even negatively affect the sand of our beaches. It can easily make fish sick, not to mention dangerous for us to each. Such pollutants can make coral reefs look sickly and cause them damage. Don’t fish poo in the ocean? Yes, but their fecal matter typically makes up less than 1% of a unit of water in the ocean. Yes, you can rebuke a friend with that if they say you’re swimming in fish poo, but not if you’re swimming in the Tampa/St Pete waters right now. While it does not pose a direct threat to anything in small amounts, fecal matter, and bacteria that accompanies it can do damage in large amounts. Right now, we are seeing large amounts.

More Wet Weather On The Way

Aside from the fact that Florida just entered its wettest season, most of the state will be receiving excess amounts of rain over the next week. Just in the last week, some parts of Florida saw triple the amount of rain they saw over the last two months. Yes, the ground will absorb a lot of this, but dry dirt absorbs water a lot slower than wet dirt. This means that there will again be a lot of runoff from the coming storms. This is not even remotely looking into the future and what that may bring. June through late November is Hurricane Season and a prime time for a lot of rain even without a tropical system.

Florida RainsHow Did This Start?

About a week ago a Pacific tropical storm crossed over southern Mexico and Central America. This system did not maintain its strength and became merely a tropical low-pressure system. However, it did maintain a lot of rain and thunderstorms which a cold front draped across the Gulf of Mexico proceeded to drag across the state of Florida. In some areas, it literally rained nonstop for a few days. From there, many coastal and inland cities alike flooded considerably. No lives were threatened but many properties were damaged as flood waters slowly rose. All of that water had to go somewhere and so it did; right into the ocean through lakes and rivers.

What Can We Do To Help?

Well, for starters, we can definitely use less fertilizer and less dangerous chemicals on our lawns and properties. It is also very important to take care of your sewage system. Leaky lips sink ships and leaky pipes contaminate our oceans. You might also consider putting up a barrier wall between your septic field and gutters that run in front of it. This won’t eliminate the problem but will separate the two a little. Then there is the matter of illegal sewage dumping by homeowners and businesses. This should always be reported to local law enforcement. We can all do our part to keep our oceans and coral reefs healthy.

St Pete Water Quality
Enterococci In The Environment